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Biden Urges Modi Not to Accelerate Russian Energy Imports

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President Joe Biden meets virtually with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington, April 11, 2022. India's Defense minister Rajnath Singh, is center, and India's foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, is right.

U.S. President Joe Biden told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that buying more Russian oil is not in India's interest, as the United States pushes New Delhi to take a harder line against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Biden told Modi during an hourlong video call Monday that the U.S. is ready to help India diversify its sources of energy, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

"The president also made clear that he doesn't believe it's in India's interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy or other commodities," Psaki said.

A U.S. official described the call between the two leaders as "warm and productive," saying Biden stopped short of making a "concrete ask" of Modi on Russian energy imports.

During a short portion of the call open to reporters, Biden started the conversation by highlighting the partnership between the U.S. and India, saying the nations would "continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war."

Modi expressed growing concern about the situation in Ukraine, particularly in Bucha, where the remains of many civilians have been found.

"Recently, the news of the killings of innocent civilians in the city of Bucha was very worrying. We immediately condemned it and have asked for an independent probe," Modi said.

Modi said he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin and suggested that the Russian leader hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

India has remained neutral in Russia's war in Ukraine, raising concern from Washington but earning praise from Moscow.

FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference, in Antalya, Turkey, March 10, 2022.
FILE - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference, in Antalya, Turkey, March 10, 2022.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Modi in New Delhi last month, said India had judged "the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way."

India has refrained from imposing sanctions on Russia and abstained when the U.N. General Assembly voted last week to suspend Moscow from its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

India has also continued to purchase Russian oil and gas, despite pressure from the United States and other Western countries to refrain. Russia has offered steep discounts on its energy supplies, and India has bought at least 13 million barrels of Russian crude oil since the invasion of Ukraine, compared with the 16 million barrels it bought in 2021, according to data compiled by Reuters.

Psaki did not say whether India had made any commitments to reduce Russian energy imports.

Following the call between Biden and Modi, the U.S. secretaries of State and Defense met with their Indian counterparts in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters before the meeting of the four officials that the talks would span a range of topics, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate issues and "upholding a free, open, democratic, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region."

"This is a momentous moment in global affairs, and I think as a result, this partnership is even more consequential and more vital," he said.

Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said, "Our collaboration has grown well beyond its bilateral scope and now has a visible impact on global issues, as well."

"Now, more than ever, democracies must stand together to defend the values that we all share," said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Biden and Modi last spoke in March at a meeting of the so-called "Quad" alliance of the U.S., India, Australia and Japan. Biden said that of the group, only India was "somewhat shaky" in its response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

During their virtual talk Monday, Biden and Modi were expected to have discussed a range of issues in addition to Ukraine, including dealing with climate change and countering China's influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Psaki said in a statement Sunday that the leaders would discuss "strengthening the global economy and upholding a free, open, rules-based international order to bolster security, democracy, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific."

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

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